I have been looking forward to the Cumulus Festival ever since I discovered it on Bronze Fawn’s upcoming show list. Almost all instrumental “post-rock” series of shows? Yes, please! I bought a pass, even.
Day 1 was at Chop Suey. The venue was moderately full, not sold out, but not empty as I feared it might have been. I hope the organizers are making a decent profit so that the festival can continue next year. Maybe I should have donated more by buying individual tickets instead. Maybe they should sell the posters… At any rate, the last show I attended at Chop Suey started one hour after doors opened. Making the assumption that things would be the same this time, I showed up too late to catch Perish the Island. Maybe I shouldn’t have taken a shower. I only talked to two random dudes anyways…
This is a Process of a Still Life
Have you ever been driving the long way through Kansas on a rainy and lonely night and needed a soundtrack? TiaPoaSL could replace the sound of the rain against the thin roof of your old car harmonizing with the thrum of the engines and the roar of the grooves in your tires as the travel through the darkness. Occasionally you pass some city and the lights provide a respite from the grey and black that surround the pale yellow of your headlights against the road and the prairie grasses. Every so often, songs wander in and out of the white noise like matching headlights that appear in the distance and grow larger and brighter but after a red flash in your mirror they are replaced once again with the soothing hiss and hum of the sounds of going somewhere in a place that seems like it is full of nowhere. Five-person This is a Process of a Still Life have mastered all the possible dynamics: from whisper quiet to deafeningly loud. They do so with a plethora of instruments: drums, tambourine, sleigh bells, up to three guitars, bass, sampler, drum machine, two keyboards, pedal steel, and the requisite visual accompaniment of the night. TiaPoaSL were a great way to start the first night!
The thing about good festivals is that you get to listen to a bunch of stuff you normally wouldn’t seek out. You get to watch them play for 30-45 minutes and then, at the end, say “Well, that was interesting.” The award for strangest instrumentation of the night goes to three-piece Corespondents: acoustic guitar, up to 2 electric guitars, snare drum, high hat with attached cowbell, bell and splash mounted upside down together, tambourines and t-shirt that reads something like “Do you have tickets to the gun show?” for damping, some sort of electrified one-stringed eastern instrument, some sort of midi drums, and a lute, I think. Take all of these instruments and the only thing you can possibly create with them is an electrified take on middle eastern folk music. I felt a little like I should be in Krygyztan or something. The bearded gentleman in front of me called them “Post-Polka,” which I thought was pretty fitting. Their chosen visualization for the evening was a sped up conglomeration of Yoga, Tai-Chi and other eastern exercise videos. They were pretty hilarious, actually. In the midst of one of their songs, a couple started waltzing. Another of their songs sounded strangely like a Beatles cover, but not enough that I could wrap my mind around which song it might be. Well, that was interesting
Joy Wants Eternity
The five gentlemen from Joy Wants Eternity were the crowd favorite of the evening, clearly. They also won the award for bring the most guitar pedals. Too many for me to count, even. They employ drums, three guitars, glockenspiel and a Rhodes electric awesomeness. Naturally my inclination was to intently watch the Rhodes player for some sort of education. However, he was situated so that I couldn’t see his hands. He was playing a MkII with the flat top and had shiny legs for the piano and had a tall milk crate as a seat. That was about all I could learn from the night. Maybe a couple ideas about style. He also had an overdrive or distortion pedal that I couldn’t read the name of. However, it solidified my idea that distorted Rhodes sounds awesome. Okay, enough geeking out over the instrument I want to learn. Joy Wants Eternity is built entirely out of feedback and delays and loops and effects. They sound a bit like what I imagine being haunted by a ghost would be like. A ghost that you can’t decide whether to get angry at, dance with, or simply marvel the beauty of it’s wispy, ectoplasmic form. They include ethereal beauty (Rhodes) over a wailing stampede of feedback and noise over some solid rock rhythms. I feel like the drums were included to give Joy Wants Eternity a way to reach out to people. Everybody likes rock drums. If the drummer did more rolls and arrhythmic stuff, people would have nothing to grasp on to. If I ran JWE, my drummer would be just as feedback-laden as everyone else. Noise and sounds, not so much rhythms. But JWE is a fine band nonetheless.
At this point, I was starting to get tired. This is only show 3 of my 5 show marathon, but I’m old. Earth went on at about 1 AM. The four piece abuses drums, bass, guitar, and an Wurlitzer electric pretty awesome piano + effects pedals. When I say abuse, I mean they conjure out the loudest, yet slowest, possible sound from their poor instruments. Like BLLLLLLLAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRR! Earth is a very appropriate name. Their songs work on geologic time. Painfully slow repetitions of the same theme with minor variations for what seems like millennia. Intense pressures, unimaginable except at the core of the Earth, paired with seemingly infinite patience combine to form these huge sounds that I could hear about two blocks away as I was walking to my car in a half-asleep daze despite the near-freezing temperature. As I sped home, I imagined that the vibrations of the band’s immense sound were shaking the very foundations of the Ship Canal Bridge and at any moment or perhaps in a million years, it would crumble to dust. I hope the Chop Suey survived the onslaught. I think I sustained some hearing damage even with my earplugs in…
It is unfortunate that I only got about 5 hours of sleep, because I’m ready to go to King Cobra tonight and watch day 2! Yeah!
Keywords: chop suey, Corespondents, cumulus festival, Earth, Joy Wants Eternity, Perish the Island, This is a Process of a Still Life